|DAILY KFOR BRIEFING|
June 21, 1999
Following the departure of all Serb forces from Kosovo, Major General Michael Jackson, commander of the KFOR peacekeepers, discusses what comes next. The following is the full text of his comments:
GENERAL JACKSON: .on us by the United Nations and to see this process of demilitarisation through whilst doing our utmost to maintain the peace and security for all Kosovo citizens. Very soon, therefore, KFOR will be the only military security presence here and that's how it should be and that I know is the objective enshrined within the United Nations Security Council resolution.
I also look forward to the integration of the Russian contingent within my unified command as we set about the next phase of our task. As you all know, we have the requisite high-level political agreement on the terms of the deployment of the Russian contingent and I await the final formal approval in the very near future.
So it has come a conclusion, today marks a turning point in KFOR's mission. I emphasise once again that we are here to establish a climate of peace and security for all the people of Kosovo. I hope that all - and I would stress that word "all" - who have left in fear will return and I am encouraged by movements into Kosovo of refugees of more than one ethnic background.
I would repeat what I have said before, that KFOR will be robust but fair, it will be even-handed in its dealings with all sections of the community whatever their background to ensure that we do achieve a safe and secure environment for everybody.
Finally, I would just like to say a word of thanks to many people who have helped in reaching the agreement, not only this one but in the past. I have a very good friend and colleague, Lt. Colonel John Reith, who did much work with the UCK to achieve this undertaking during negotiations in Albania. Can I also pay tribute to the gentleman on my right, Senor Sergio de Mello, the interim Special Representative, whose advice to me as I was required to consult him under the terms of the UNHCR, has been extremely valuable. Senor de Mello and myself will continue to co-operate closely as required by the Security Council resolution as we pass from this first phase of KFOR's operation to the next.
That is all I want to say, we are now both of us very happy to take questions.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
QUESTION (NORWEGIAN BROADCASTING): General Jackson, with respect to the necessity of harmonising the motivation of the Russians in KFOR and also with respect to the Serb side of this settlement, how crucial would you say it is that UCK complies with what you have agreed upon now?
GENERAL JACKSON: I make no qualification about compliance whether it is the Russian contingent or anybody else's contingent; they have made an undertaking, they have signed it, they have given it to me and I have received it, it is as simple as that. They must now - and I am sure they will - uphold what they have undertaken to do.
QUESTION (ITN): General, yesterday we filmed ethnic Albanians looting and burning a Serb village while your NATO troops stood by and watched. How are Serbs who saw those pictures expected to believe your promise to be both robust and even-handed?
GENERAL JACKSON: Let me deal with the particular first. It was an incident which obviously I much regret, it should not have happened, we have taken some measures to make sure that it doesn't happen again. I have said before that no organisation is perfect and on that occasion we fell short of what I would have wanted so having got that out of the way, I would say to any Serb observer that this was not an intention by us - far from it - and there are many examples I think of where KFOR has taken firm action to ensure that Serb minority villages or whatever have been protected and I think we need to keep it in proportion.
GENERAL JACKSON: As to your first point, I think I have answered that.
Regarding the command-and-control of the UCK, that of course is a matter for them, not for me but on the other hand, I expect all members of the UCK to uphold the undertaking which their leaders have presented to me, that is for them.
As to the length of KFOR's duration, we know perfectly well that the demilitarisation programme takes 90 days so we are here for 90 days, I can assure you of that! (laughter) Thereafter, judgements will have to be made about future political progress, stability, all of those things but don't write down that I am saying we are going home in 91 days because I have not said that! We are here for some time to come, I am sure of that.
MARK LAITY (BBC): There has been comment that the application of a crackdown on the KLA has been different in different sectors, that the Italian and Germans have been less robust than for instance the British and the Americans. Now that the agreement is in force, is there going to be a tougher stance all round on the KLA? Secondly, are you taking any specific measures, for instance extra guards in Serb areas, to try and encourage them to stay?
GENERAL JACKSON: On the first part of your question, Mark, you wouldn't expect me in any way to accept the premise behind your question that in some ways this force is divided. We had a very difficult period from arrival until the undertaking by the KLA was finalised early this morning and I think you will appreciate that. We had a clear document on which to operate with the Yugoslav forces, there was not such a document with the KLA and therefore the instructions which I gave were to handle whatever situation you were confronted with on a basically common sense basis, a rough and ready basis, because there was nothing else. I am not going to second-guess the judgement of the local commander on the ground, I certainly can't be everywhere at once and nor can anybody else.
What was the second part of your question?
MARK LAITY: That there was also some concern by some Serb areas that they didn't have specific KFOR protection. I was wondering are you actually concentrating on trying to have a KFOR presence in those areas.
GENERAL JACKSON: I think actions speak louder than words and if you have hovering around potential flashpoints I would be extremely surprised.
EVE CONNORS (VOICE OF AMERICA): You mentioned that in the agreement there were some details about a political role for the KLA. Could you expand on that a little bit?
GENERAL JACKSON: No, I didn't say anything about a political role, I said an aspiration, a political aspiration and I think I will leave it at that. You can read for yourself what the text says, it is not for me, I am a soldier, I will make certain that the political aspiration is presented to the appropriate international community to which it is addressed if you look at the text.
MICHAEL EVANS (THE TIMES): If the Serbs make a further request to come back into Kosovo to pick up more damaged tanks or whatever, will you give them permission?
GENERAL JACKSON: I will look at that on a case-by-case basis. We do know, not through any intention to be non-compliant, that there is some equipment not being taken out. Don't forget the complexity and the enormity of the task which the VJ has to complete, it would be quite a problem for any army and I am not surprised that there is some equipment left about. We actually made some special arrangements yesterday to get a couple of convoys in to pick up some of that which was achieved although not all of it and I will look at it in due course and we will look after it in the meantime. It is not an issue.
QUESTION (INDEPENDENT, LONDON): General, can you give us some details about the verification procedure which will be used to ensure that the KLA does comply and secondly, have you got any indication at all of whether or not the rank and file of UCK are happy with the agreement?
GENERAL JACKSON: As for the mechanics of it first of all, as I think I found myself saying a week or so ago, I do urge you to read the document which will answer many of your questions. There are some very clear time-lines laid down by which certain things must be done and we shall verify that they are done, it is as simple as that.As to your second question, I think already answered that actually. This is a matter for the leadership of the KLA, they have signed an undertaking, they must now make sure that all members of the KLA deliver that undertaking.
QUESTION (THE WASHINGTON POST): Granted we haven't had a chance to read the text yet but one point sticks out from what you said and I wonder if perhaps you could explain what exactly "the storage of weapons" means? Does that mean you can put them away in your closet and bring them out another day?
GENERAL JACKSON: No, it is storage sites nominated and agreed with us.
QUESTION (BBC): What was the KFOR's attitude towards personal weapons held by individual KLA members, pistons, hunting rifles - some of them will no doubt regard their Kalashnikoffs as pistol weapons - and will there be weapon searches carried out by KFOR in villages or will it just be a case of stopping people when they come down the main road?
GENERAL JACKSON: When you read the fine print of the agreement, you will see that pistols are not covered in the agreement and neither are non-automatic, long-barrelled weapons such as a shotgun or a hunting rifle.
We will be carrying out weapon searches and obviously we will checking that the agreement is being upheld, it is really as simple as that, but Senor de Mello probably will wish to comment on this question of residual weapons some of which of course will be completely legally held with a firearms certificate for the perfectly usual purposes of hunting or whatever.
SERGIO DE MELLO: I would like to add a word on that which stems from our meeting here yesterday in this very room.
I may not have told you that one of the first regulations that I shall issue - jointly I hope with General Mike - is on the acquisition, possession and bearing of small arms. We have to impose a very strict control over all types of weapons, including pistols.
GENERAL JACKSON: I would just repeat what I said a moment ago that the undertaking does not cover that category of weapon.
QUESTION (NEW YORK TIMES): Could you tell us who you negotiated in the UCK, did you negotiate directly with Thaci, were there any other commanders there and are you convinced that all the commanders are on board in this case and who in the UCK did you actually talk to?
GENERAL JACKSON: The vast majority of the negotiations were done by Lt. General John Reith in Albania, who commands AFOR and we had a session last night to finish it off.
SAME QUESTIONER: Are all the UCK on board in this agreement, were they all there, were they negotiating?
GENERAL JACKSON: I can assure that to the best of my knowledge great pains were gone to during the negotiations to make sure certainly that all the zone commanders were consulted and brought into that process.
QUESTION: A question about returning Serb refugees. Have you had any negotiations with the Serb authorities for the return of large numbers of Serb refugees? Secondly, it has been estimated that Milosevic may forcibly move up to 50,000 of the refugees who are in Serbia back into Kosovo and would you see that as a sort of destabilisation tactic?
GENERAL JACKSON: Let me deal with the question of returning Serb refugees. We have seen in the last 48 hours I think a figure of about 2,000 and on one particular occasion Mr. Voyavic (phon), who is the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, specifically asked me to escort them from the border to Pristina and given the volatility of the situation I agreed without precedent to do that so that is one instance.
I have no knowledge of the story or thought that lies behind the second part of your question, I simply have no knowledge of that at all.
QUESTION (THE GUARDIAN): What is the latest from Mitrovica, Sir, and what can KFOR to stop finding itself in the middle of two communities and ending up reinforcing the division of the town?
GENERAL JACKSON: Mitrovica is not alone in that you have an interface there between two communities. The important thing is to lower the tension wherever. I don't want to be specific, it is really difficult for me to talk about individual cases of which I don't always have full knowledge but the principle here is to lower tension and that may mean a physical presence until things settle down and on which I do believe day by day we shall see progress.
QUESTION (ASSOCIATED PRESS SERVICES): Is this agreement what you need to do your job, Mr. de Dello?
SENOR DE MELLO: Let me take the opportunity of your question to say that yesterday was a very important day, the total withdrawal of VJ forces is a success and I think the government of the FRY deserves congratulations for adhering strictly to the agreement that General Jackson signed with them in Komanovo on 10th June.
Secondly, we are indeed happy with the undertaking by the KLA. We have been consulted on the requirements for the demilitarisation of the KLA which are vital to the success of both our tasks here and particularly the fact that they will be all assembled within .. days. As I told you yesterday, I intend to start deploying the international police force as from the end of next week and it is essential that our policemen take over the police stations that are at presently occupied by UCK fighters and that they are able to conduct their work together with KFOR soldiers in the streets of main urban areas as well as on the main roads of this province and the agreement provides for that so we are quite satisfied with the terms for the demilitarisation of the UCK, we count on them, on their wisdom and sense of responsibility to adhere themselves strictly to the contents of that agreement and will certainly do our best to contribute to the success of the agreement under the leadership of General Jackson whom I wish to congratulate because this was not easy to obtain.
GENERAL JACKSON: If I may, I would just like to make two points. I have heard one or two people already calling this document an agreement. It is not. Can we be utterly clear about that? It is a unilateral undertaking by the leadership of the UCK and if you look at the end of the document you will see the way in which the signature blocks are arranged. It is very important that this is properly understood. It is their undertaking under the terms of the UNSCR which "demands" the demilitarisation. My signature acknowledges that I have received the document, I acknowledge its receipt, it is not a form of agreement between KFOR and the UCK as the military-technical agreement was. I do want to make it clear that it is a unilateral undertaking by them to do that which is demanded of them by the United Nations Security Council.
My second point is that I already paid tribute to my soldiers but they are doing a remarkably difficult job as best they can and as cheerfully and as helpfully as they can. I have already said that we don't always get things as right as perhaps we would wish but I would ask you just to reflect that credit should also be given to those who are risking their lives to achieve what we are about and that is my soldiers and if you will just bear that in mind I would be very grateful.